Vat­i­can down­plays re­ports Bene­dict is gravely ill

Irish Independent - - News | John Hume: 1937-2020 - Philip Pul­lella

THE Vat­i­can has re­jected a Ger­man news­pa­per re­port that for­mer Pope Bene­dict XVI is se­ri­ously ill.

A spokesman yes­ter­day said his con­di­tion was “not par­tic­u­larly wor­ry­ing” and that he was over­com­ing a painful but not grave ail­ment.

The clar­i­fi­ca­tion came hours af­ter Bene­dict’s bi­og­ra­pher, Peter See­wald, sparked alarm by telling the ‘Pas­sauer Neue Presse’ that he had found the 93-yearold ex-pope ex­cep­tion­ally frail when he vis­ited him on Satur­day.

He claimed that the for­mer pon­tiff has been suf­fer­ing from a fa­cial in­fec­tion since his re­turn to Rome af­ter a trip to his na­tive Bavaria to visit his brother, who died a month ago. Ge­org Ratzinger died on July 1 aged 96. The two broth­ers were or­dained on the same day in 1951.

Mr See­wald, who has pub­lished sev­eral book-length in­ter­views with Bene­dict, handed over a copy of the bi­og­ra­phy to the for­mer pon­tiff on Satur­day, the news­pa­per re­ported.

He said Bene­dict, who has been in shaky health for some time, was now suf­fer­ing from shin­gles, a vi­ral in­fec­tion that causes painful rashes and is com­mon among older peo­ple.

How­ever, the Vat­i­can down­played Bene­dict’s con­di­tion.

“The health con­di­tions of the Pope Emer­i­tus are not par­tic­u­larly wor­ry­ing, apart from be­ing those of an old man of 93 who is over­com­ing the most acute phase of a painful but not grave ill­ness,” the state­ment said.

Mr See­wald said Bene­dict’s voice was barely au­di­ble – echo­ing some­thing other vis­i­tors have said for months – but that the for­mer pope told him he might be­gin writ­ing again if he re­gains his strength.

Bene­dict, who was elected in 2005 to suc­ceed the widely pop­u­lar Pope John Paul II, shocked the world and even his clos­est aides in Fe­bru­ary 2013 when he an­nounced that he was step­ping down.

He told a gath­er­ing of car­di­nals that he was too old and frail to lead an in­sti­tu­tion with 1.3 bil­lion mem­bers.

At the time of Bene­dict’s res­ig­na­tion, the Vat­i­can was mired in a raft of fi­nan­cial woes, sex­ual abuse scan­dals and in­fight­ing.

He was suc­ceeded by Pope Fran­cis (83).

PHOTO: SVEN HOPPE/REUTERS

Frail: Pope Emer­i­tus Bene­dict (93) in June when he vis­ited his ail­ing brother in Ger­many.

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